Sunday, 3 March 2013

The Mackenzie Poltergeist

Greyfriars Kirk by day

The Poltergeist of Greyfriars Kirkyard is known as the Mackenzie poltergeist, despite not behaving like a poltergeist and probably having nothing to do with anyone called Mackenzie.Even for the most haunted city on the planet the Poltergeist is an oddity.

It is less confined spatially than the average poltergeist, does not throw things around and it has lasted much longer than most poltergeist infestations. Also it lives in a churchyard while poltergeists normally seem to look for human company


Mackenzie was a seventeenth century hanging judge with a particular hatred of covenanters, persecuting them so zealously that he gained the nickname “Bluidy Mackenzie”. However he was in disgrace for a while as he objected to pressure to refrain from prosecuting those involved in the Glencoe Massacre ( such pressure on judges is no unknown in the 21st century in the UK either ) and was, in private life, a cultured and learned gentleman with literary tendencies. He died in 1691 and was buried in the Greyfriars Kirkyard.

Mackenzie imprisoned 1200 covenanters in a field next to Greyfriars Kirkyard, an area described later, probably inaccurately, as the first concentration camp [2], and many died or were executed.
The area now known as the Covenanters' Prison is not where the covenanters were actually imprisoned: it was not added until 1703.

The Birth of the Poltergeist

In December 1998 a homeless man wandered into the churchyard and slipped into one of the mausoleums, the Black Mausoleum, believed to be the tomb of Mackenzie though this is uncertain. He smashed some coffins and fell into a previously unknown mass grave [2] containing the partially decomposed bodies of plague victims. At that point he did exactly what anyone else would do. He ran. How he got out of the pit is not stated. On his way out he ran into a man with a dog, apparently a security guard, who, seeing a filthy vagrant running at him, blood streaming from a cut on his forehead sustained in his panic stricken flight, also ran. As anyone with sense would do.

Ever since there have been well documented reports of something malevolent in the area. The phenomenon has persisted since 1998, which is longer than any poltergeist manifestation I know.

The Poltergeist

The day after the homeless man fell into a pit of decomposing bodies a woman peering though the iron grill on the door was reportedly knocked off its step by a cold blast. Then another woman was found lying near the tomb with a ring of bruises round her neck. She said invisible hands had tried to strangle her. A young man with similar injuries was found lying opposite the vault.

Edinburgh Council locked the vault and wanted to forget they had the key. Then a local author was granted permission to run controlled tours to the mausoleum. Paranormal activity escalated from then on. Since 1998 there have been two to four attacks a month. This is probably a small percentage of the total number of people visiting the mausoleum, which suggests the poltergeist is selective about who it attacks.

Some of the victims lost consciousness, inexplicable fires broke out, people had hair pulled, fingers broken, unexplained scratches, skin gouges, burns, nausea and numbness. An unusually large number of dead animals have been found near the vault and cameras and electrical equipment tend to malfunction near the mausoleum. Interestingly the victims often fail to realise they have been injured till much later. Some injuries disappear as rapidly as they appeared and some turn into lifelong scars. Sometimes the phenomena follow them home.

On occasion everyone on a particular tour feels or see the same thing, suggesting a degree of reality. The company that runs the tours also keeps detailed records and photographs of the injuries sustained by visitors to the mausoleum and its surrounding area.

The aroma of smelling salts and the stink of sulphur have been reported, and inexplicable laughing and growling has been heard along with strange knocking sounds that seem to emanate from beneath ground level.

A mysterious fire destroyed all the notes made by the local author who ran the tours, five years worth of notes and records and people living nearby have reported poltergeist phenomena. It also seems as if the phenomenon has moved to the covenanters prison.

Comparison with a standard poltergeist case

Poltergeist cases develop slowly and few last more than a year. The phenomenon started suddenly in December 1998 and has continued ever since:

Poltergeists rarely do harm but this one hurts people regularly.

Poltergeists normally only move if there is a human focus that moves, but this one has relocated

Cameras and other equipment malfunction: This happens with the Loch Ness Monster but us unusual with poltergeists.

An unusually large number of dead animals are found in the area; I know of no comparison with other graveyards and no poltergeist case that involves killing animals. I note mystery animal mutilations in the USA and wonder if the animals found dead had been mutilated.

Knockings, noises and phantom smells however are observed in poltergeist and ghost cases.

The Wrap

By any standards the Mackenzie poltergeist is an oddity. Skeptics ignore it and it seems to have its own way of discouraging investigation. You have been warned

If you come to Edinburgh and want to risk being trailed, scratched, burnt or otherwise assailed by an alien being you can reach Greyfriars Kirk with a single bus ride from Badjao Bed and Breakfast.

The Kirk is hidden from the main road: a small alleyway to the left of the statue of Greyfriars Bobbie and the pub behind it leads to the Kirk. You should be safe during the day but you will not get into the haunted areas unless you go on the tour. If you stay with us and do go on the tour we would love to hear of any odd experiences you might have.

In the area is the Frankenstein bar, in a former church, the numerous bars of the Grassmarket where public executions used to take place and the Royal Museum of Scotland.

You may also want to read this fulleraccount of the Mackenzie Poltergeist

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